The 2015 edition of The Guilded Pen contains stories, poetry, and essays, including an essay by Gered Beeby, “Carl Jung, Colors, and Gone With the Wind.” In his essay, Gered introduces psychologist Taylor Hartman, Ph.D., and his color code “to illustrate complex concepts of the human motives for a broad audience.”
Dr. Hartman proposes using four colors — red, blue, white, and yellow — to describe what Carl Jung and other psychologists in the past characterized as tendencies for people to favor thinking, feeling, intuiting, and sensing as strategies in life. Gered then observed how four main characters from Martha Mitchell’s epic Gone With the Wind manifest those character types. The characters — Scarlett O’Hara (red), Melanie Hamilton (blue), Ashley Wilkes (white), and Rhett Butler (yellow) — are three-dimensional personalities we recognize as believable and fully developed. Gered’s essay suggests both a means for readers to evaluate the credibility of characters in stories through identification with one of the colors, as well as a resource for writers to consult when developing their own characters.
There is another Dr. Hartmann (with two n’s), Dr. Ernest Hartmann, who developed a questionnaire to determine personality indicators, although he first used it to address sleep disorders. His work has interested me since I was introduced to it as part of my study of Arabic language at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). The linguists at FSI recognized that persons with certain personality traits or preferences were more likely to be successful mastering foreign languages, especially those labeled as hard or super-hard, such as Arabic, where both the structure and the alphabet are unlike English. We Arabic language students were given the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment as well as Dr. Hartmann’s Boundary Questionnaire.
MBTI provides results as a series of four letters such as INFP (that’s me – Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) which FSI instructors found helpful when students had problems in the class. For example, they suggested different types of activities for students identified as extroverts, activities that would put the students into a group, than for the introverts, who benefited more from individual study.
In contrast, the Boundary Questionnaire results were more useful to students ourselves and to the linguists who oversaw all the classes. Boundary Questionnaire results are a number on a scale ranging from 120 to 454. The “boundaries” referred to in the questionnaire are either thick (low numbers) or thin (high numbers). Those whose scores fall into the range of thick boundaries (less than 270) typically prefer hard-and-fast definitions in all areas of life, with little tolerance for ambiguity. Archie Bunker is an archetypical thick boundary character. Those whose scores fall in the range of thin boundaries (over 270) are more likely to tolerate ambiguity and lack of clarity. Dr. Who comes to mind.
FSI instructors learned over the years that students who do not tolerate ambiguity find learning foreign languages very difficult.
My Boundary score is 362. And my guess is that most writers, especially writers of fiction, also exhibit thin boundaries. But that may simply be proof that people tend to consider their own type as desirable and the other as less so. For example, one website based on the Hartmann Boundary Questionnaire says, “Thin boundary people, for example, see themselves as ‘exciting,’ ‘creative,’ and ‘innovative’ but can look upon those with thick boundaries as ‘dull,’ ‘rigid,’ and ‘unimaginative.’ Thick boundary people, on the other hand, view themselves as ‘solid,’ ‘reliable,’ and ‘persevering’ while sometimes considering those with thin boundaries as ‘flaky,’ ‘far out’ and ‘unreliable.’ What can we say but Vive la difference!”
So let’s find out. Do you operate with thick boundaries or thin ones? The site quoted above offers a shortened, online version of the Boundary Questionnaire, 18 questions that are scored automatically. On that version, the max score is 72 (see figure above) and scores higher than 42 are considered thin. My score on that one is 48. Use the comments section below to share your score. I’ll gather the data (without the names) and post the results once there are enough submissions to build a graph to compare scores.
And if you are interested in more of Gered’s essay or the other offerings in the 2015 Guilded Pen, check out the Anthology page where you can order your own copy.